The champion's future is shrouded in doubt by a possible draft call. And so, according to these close fight observers, is his place among the other 22 who have held the title
For his boxing ability alone Clay, at 24, has already won a spot among the greatest of the heavyweights. To those who know the sport best, only the elusive Gene Tunney is admired as much for his ring skill, and Nat Loubet, managing editor of The Ring magazine, says, "Clay would have stood a good chance of beating Tunney."
Most would be surer of Clay's position if they were convinced that he had a punch. Teddy Brenner, Madison Square Garden matchmaker, is one who has to be shown. " Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano," he says, "could pull out a fight in the 15th round. This Clay could never do. He is relying on his speed now, but how good a fighter will he be after he loses that big advantage?"
Probably one of the best, says Nat Fleischer, founder of The Ring, although he does not yet rate Clay among the first 15. "He is young," Fleischer says. "Possibly he could become a great hitter if he took his work more seriously." Jimmy Jacobs, owner of the world's largest fight-film library and a Clay admirer, says he is a puncher now. "He has a knockout ratio equal to Marciano's, but he correctly relies on his elusive-ness and seldom sets to punch. Still, with his tremendous strength, he is able to put power into his blows. I would rate Clay third to Louis and Marciano, but I believe he has not reached his attainable peak."